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Soaping the slippery slope: the decline of once-Christian colleges into bastions of unbelief
WORLD ^ | Marvin Olasky

Posted on 08/21/2012 3:17:59 PM PDT by rhema

What happened to so many once-Christian colleges in the United States? Two fine books describe the decline. George Marsden's 462-page The Soul of the American University shows how once-Protestant universities became secular look-alikes. James Burtchaell's The Dying of the Light: The Disengagement of Colleges and Universities from Their Christian Churches uses 868 pages to show not only how schools moved from liberal theism to secularism but how, before that, they moved from theologically conservative to liberal stances.

I'll try to give the high points of 1,330 pages in fewer than 1,330 words: Three central messages are (1) Follow the money, (2) Watch the college president, (3) See what the college does with Darwin.

Follow the money: Andrew Carnegie, antagonistic toward Christianity, established in 1905 the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, which the following year began giving matching grants to fund the retirement of professors—but it excluded colleges and universities under denominational control. During the first four years of Carnegie grant-making, 20 schools changed their boards, statement of faith requirements, or hiring requirements so as to get Carnegie money for professors who might otherwise fall into poverty.

For example, Beloit College quickly sent Carnegie a message that suggested the board's resolve to have trustees from any denomination or no denomination. In the 1920s the trustees selected as Beloit's new president Irving Maurer, who said in one talk, "What does God mean to me? He means doing my duty, being good, allying myself with the right things." Maurer decried "the doctrine of the Virgin birth" and said, "I believe in the divinity of Jesus because I believe in the divinity of man. I believe that man and Christ have the moral characteristics of God."

Occasionally college leaders pushed back. Syracuse University chancellor James Day defended his Methodist school in 1910 and said, "Other colleges may do as they please. If they wish to crawl in the dirt for such a price, that is their privilege. But no university can teach young people lofty ideals of manhood and forget itself respect and honor, or sell its loyalty and faith for money that Judas flung away when in remorse he went out and hung himself. It is an insult for such a proposition to be made to a Christian institution." Most colleges, Carnegie found out, welcomed such insult—and Syracuse eventually succumbed to other blandishments.

The love of money was the root of all kinds of evil. New presidents loved to find new money sources but often in the process abandoned a biblical focus—because no money came without strings of some sort. Burtchaell shows how the Lafayette College board with its Presbyterian trustees, "terrified of a sudden insolvency," hired a president who objected, "as all right-minded people do, to being thought sectarian." Boards at Millsaps, Davidson, and Wake Forest moved away from denominational influence upon receiving "a sudden, large benefaction."

Watch the college president. Burtchaell shows that many college presidents cared more about respectability in the eyes of materialists than they did about Christ. These presidents were "attractive, and trusted," but at critical moments they helped their colleges gain money and students by abandoning the original Christian mission. Some were not even conscious of what they were doing: "All change was supposed to be gain, without a sense of loss." But losses there were: In college after college "the critical turn away from Christian accountability was taken under the clear initiative of a single president."

Marsden shows how decade by decade, college after college, presidents led trustees in making small accommodations, often with little understanding of the ultimate import of such moves. Boards of trustees assumed that Christian principles and objectives, often encrusted like fossils in mission statements, were still operative, but in practice they were increasingly marginalized.

Burtchaell shows how the presidents often got their way because the colleges were tired of being poor and often tired of "doctrinal preoccupations that spoiled the religious, devotional, and behavioral commonplaces which the modernists took as cultural lozenges." For example, James Kirkland, who became chancellor of Vanderbilt in 1893, spoke less about the Bible and more about the "'upbuilding of Christ's kingdom,' a phrase that could encompass everything constructive in modern civilization." Kirkland spent 20 years reducing the role of Southern Methodist leaders on his board of trustees.

The largest Northern Methodist university, Northwestern, dismissed in 1902 an English professor who attacked biblical inerrancy in a local newspaper. The firing brought some negative national publicity, and Northwestern's new president told its board in 1908 that Northwestern should offend neither "the denomination which gave it birth or the great community which is becoming interested in it without respect to denominational considerations." No school can serve two masters, and Northwestern was soon playing to the "great community."

Burtchaell writes about William Jewett Tucker, president of Dartmouth from 1893 to 1909, who took difficult parts of Scripture as metaphorical and called for "a Bible set free from the last bondage to literalism." As conviction of the Bible's truth disappeared, all that was left was "vague moralizing," and in time "the purge of Christian purpose" became evident to all. Tucker changed the board of trustees so that in 1906, near the end of his incumbency, a majority of board members were not active members of any church.

Tucker's comments as he left office showed why Dartmouth was on its way to becoming indistinguishable from secular counterparts: He did not want to discuss "distinctive tenets" of the Bible but only "those fundamental obligations and incentives of religion in which we are all substantially agreed." Then he proclaimed, "Formerly the distinction was, Is a man orthodox or heterodox? Today the distinction is, Is a man an optimist or a pessimist?" Tucker's successor as president, Ernest Hopkins, said in 1921 that "friendliness and good will [are] the essence of the religion Jesus taught." Churches, in other words, were clubs.

Watch the treatment of Darwin. At Dartmouth during Tucker's reign, chapel became voluntary but a course on evolution compulsory. Wake Forest's president from 1905 to 1927, William Poteat, tried to meld Christianity and evolution, and oversaw religious drift. When Ohio Wesleyan President James Bashford interviewed zoologist Edward Rice for a faculty position, Rice said he would teach evolution and Bashford replied, "I wouldn't want you if you didn't."

Francis Patton, Princeton's president from 1888 to 1902, hired Woodrow Wilson to be a professor but told him he should teach "under theistic and Christian presuppositions." Patton complained, "In your discussion of the origin of the State, you minimize the supernatural & make such unqualified application of the doctrine of naturalistic evolution & the genesis of the State as to leave the reader of your pages in a state of uncertainty as to your own position & the place you give to Divine Providence." In 1902 the trustees made Wilson president, and Wilson over the next 10 years undermined what was left of Princeton's biblical base (see sidebar).

Marsden quotes at length an article Cosmopolitan magazine published in 1909—Harold Bolce's "Blasting at the Rock of Ages"—that summarized a national tragedy: "Those who are not in close touch with the great colleges of the country, will be astonished to learn the creeds being foisted by the faculties of our great universities. In hundreds of classrooms it is being taught daily that the Decalogue is no more sacred than a syllabus; that the home as an institution is doomed; that there are no absolute evils; that immorality is simply an act in contravention of society's accepted standards."

How the mighty had fallen.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial
KEYWORDS: abortion; christiancolleges; christianschools; deathpanels; education; gaymarriage; homosexualagenda; kenyanbornmuzzie; obamacare; swrdswllwngsdshw; zerocare

1 posted on 08/21/2012 3:18:03 PM PDT by rhema
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To: rhema

Blood and Purity of Christ of Indiana University is now the birthplace of Kinsey’s works on sex and today’s Obama mania and perversion/corruption politics.


2 posted on 08/21/2012 3:25:45 PM PDT by JudgemAll (Democrats Fed. job-security Whorocracy & hate:hypocrites must be gay like us or be tested/crucified)
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To: rhema

Blood and Purity of Christ of Indiana University is now the birthplace of Kinsey’s works on sex and today’s Obama mania and perversion/corruption politics.

... that is the red and white colors of IU


3 posted on 08/21/2012 3:26:09 PM PDT by JudgemAll (Democrats Fed. job-security Whorocracy & hate:hypocrites must be gay like us or be tested/crucified)
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To: rhema

Most seminaries are, too. Teaching or accepting evolution, doubt of the Bible as the Word of God, promoting “interfaith dialogue” which looks for “common ground” and validates non-Christian beliefs.


4 posted on 08/21/2012 3:26:30 PM PDT by F15Eagle (1 John 5:4-5, 4:15, 5:13; John 3:17-18, 6:69, 11:25, 14:6, 20:31; Rom10:8-11; 1 Tim 2:5; Titus 3:4-5)
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To: JudgemAll

Today’s students probably think red and white signifies “clean towels needed to wipe blood off the floor of the b-ballin’ court”/sarcasm


5 posted on 08/21/2012 3:40:51 PM PDT by Frank_2001
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To: rhema

The first objective of any college, even Christian colleges, is to make MONEY.

Sent my son to an SJ high school. Cost me an arm and a leg.

Visited the place 10 years later and who is the first student that I meet? Some muslim complete with skull cap and beard.

Needless to say that I no longer support the school and neither does my son.


6 posted on 08/21/2012 3:46:45 PM PDT by 353FMG (And Congress sit silently on their hands.)
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To: rhema

Gettysburg College used to have a strong tie to the Lutheran church (General Synod > United Lutheran Church >Lutheran Church in America > ELCA) to such an extent that the various Lutheran Synods elected Trustees.

Then Gettysburg College decided that it would follow the calendar of a secular consortium and hold classes on Good Friday. They Synods objected.

Gettsburg changed its charter to strike the Synod-elected Trustees on the grounds that Trustees needed to make a five-figure annual contribution.

Trustee seats sold to the highest bidder-—like bishoprics in 16th century Germany.

You’ve come a long way, baby!


7 posted on 08/21/2012 3:58:21 PM PDT by lightman (Settling for the "lesser of two..." is still choosing Evil)
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To: rhema
[I]t is being taught daily . . . that immorality is simply an act in contravention of society's accepted standards.

So, why are the "sins" of racism, sexism, and homophobia any different? Why aren't they simply "artificial social constructs" like the old morality they seek to replace?

8 posted on 08/21/2012 4:19:30 PM PDT by Zionist Conspirator (Ki-hagoy vehamamlakhah 'asher lo'-ya`avdukh yove'du; vehagoyim charov yecheravu!)
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To: Zionist Conspirator

Why? Because it’s like sleight-of-hand. You aren’t supposed to be paying attention to those things while your attention is being directed somewhere else.


9 posted on 08/21/2012 4:53:12 PM PDT by achilles2000 ("I'll agree to save the whales as long as we can deport the liberals")
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To: rhema
During the first four years of Carnegie grant-making, 20 schools changed their boards, statement of faith requirements, or hiring requirements so as to get Carnegie money for professors who might otherwise fall into poverty.

Control the personnel policy, control the institution.

I only learned of Carnegie's involvement in the past few years. Another possible change agent were the anti-discrimination laws passed after WWII (for very understandable reasons).

A Protestant Christian-only university would occasionally come under fire from non-Protestants, and the threats of lawsuits likely force many to change. These laws are also how feminists and gay rights advocates took political control of many universities.

10 posted on 08/21/2012 8:19:55 PM PDT by Dumb_Ox
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To: rhema
The early American Colonial colleges had very high standards.

To even be considered for entrance you had to have a reading knowledge of Greek, and you needed to be able to read, write, speak and debate in Latin. All of the classics were taught and read in the original languages. The number one class, the one considered the most important to the overall character formation of the student was Moral Philosophy. They were given a thoroughly scholastic education.

At least half of our Founding Fathers were college graduates and the other half were very well read. In fact, the Constitution could have been written and debated in Latin.

11 posted on 08/21/2012 11:16:15 PM PDT by Slyfox
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To: lightman

I was reading this post BECAUSE of Gettysburg College. I have wondered for years what happened to the Lutheran connection. Went to your home page and pleased to discover your ordination half way down the page. I wont go ito detail now but if you FReepmail me I would like to know more about your connection to my college,that of my wife,her brother and our fathers.


12 posted on 08/22/2012 5:18:24 AM PDT by larryjohnson (USAF(Ret))
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To: lightman

I replied to your FReepmail, thanks


13 posted on 08/24/2012 5:27:31 AM PDT by larryjohnson (USAF(Ret))
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